Besparc’s Inclusive Language Principles

Inclusive Language Principles

Inclusive language uses careful word choice to:

We apply the principles below as a framework for inclusive writing. Any examples that appear with a principle reflect our current understanding of the meanings and connotations of those words at the time of this writing. Language evolves, and we intend to evolve in tandem.

Use personal pronouns, as well as individual, group, or subgroup attributes and characteristics only when relevant to the text.

When an individual is relevant to the text, employ a person-forward perspective.

When a subgroup is relevant to the text, identify the smallest subgroup that shares every characteristic, experience, or data point discussed in the text.

When a group is relevant to the text, use the least restrictive words that are applicable to the group. For example, “humankind” instead of “mankind”.

When a culturally specific word is relevant to the text, use such words in the manner intended by that culture generally.

One type of cultural appropriation within a text may occur when a writer:

Meaningful attribution connects the significant word to the culture of the subgroup in some identifiable way.

An example of no meaningful attribution: “To improve equality and wellbeing across the nation, Americans can adopt hygge practices.”

An example of meaningful attribution: “The word hygge can refer to relationships, activities, clothes, and more. Yet underneath all of the cozy, agreeable, and connected meanings, you find the Danish values of societal equality and wellbeing. In America we don’t have a single word that encompasses those values on a similar scale. Imagine if—even down to the sweaters we wear—we had a word that reminded us daily and through the generations to practice equality and wellbeing as individuals, in social groups, and as a nation.”

A cultural subgroup may adopt words they want outsiders to use when discussing a matter related to the subgroup.

In selecting a word or phrase, consider the likely impact of the word or phrase on both the reader and the subject of the text. Rephrase where a negative impact is obvious, likely, or in doubt.

Language Evolution

As language evolves, we consult language guidance published by groups with deep experience with diversity in language. See the citations below.

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Rachele Kanigel (editor), The Diversity Style Guide: Helping media professionals write with accuracy and authority, (pub’d unknown, accessed 7/17/23).

Vox Media, Digital Journalism Style Guide of Inclusive Language, “Language, Please” (pub’d unknown, accessed 7/17/23).

Brandeis University, Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center, “Suggested Language List” (pub’d unknown, no longer updated or revised, accessed 7/17/23).

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), “Inclusive Language Guide” (pub’d unknown, accessed 7/17/23).

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